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Judge Temporarily Blocks Iowa's 'Fetal Heartbeat' Abortion Law

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ACLU of Iowa legal director Rita Bettis, shown with Emma Goldman Clinic attorney Sam Jones, said a judge's decision to temporarily block Iowa's newly passed abortion law removes uncertainty as a legal challenge to the law proceeds.
Charlie Neibergall, AP

ACLU of Iowa legal director Rita Bettis, shown with Emma Goldman Clinic attorney Sam Jones, said a judge's decision to temporarily block Iowa's newly passed abortion law removes uncertainty as a legal challenge to the law proceeds.

Updated at 2:07 p.m. ET

A judge in Iowa has placed a temporary injunction on the state's "heartbeat law," one of the most restrictive abortion measures in the United States. The controversial new law bans nearly all abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, at about six weeks of pregnancy, and was slated to take effect July 1.

The law quickly drew a legal challenge from Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Iowa, which said the measure would make abortions illegal in cases in which women might not have realized they're pregnant.

"Not only is this law blatantly unconstitutional — it's extremely harmful to women," Planned Parenthood said of the lawsuit filed on behalf of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland and the Emma Goldman Clinic in Iowa City.

Katarina Sostaric of Iowa Public Radio reports that "the lawyers for the state agreed to the injunction" to postpone the law while the suit moves forward.

Sostaric adds via Twitter, "Court proceedings to decide the fate of the fetal heartbeat abortion law will take months, if not longer."

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Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the legislation into law in early May, banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat has been detected. The law provides some exceptions — as in cases of rape or incest, fetal abnormalities or to save the mother's life.

When she signed the bill, Reynolds issued a statement that reads in part, "I believe that all innocent life is precious and sacred, and as governor, I pledged to do everything in my power to protect it. That is what I am doing today."

ACLU of Iowa's legal director, Rita Bettis, lauded the judge's decision putting the law on hold.

"Women in Iowa don't have to live with the burden of that uncertainty of knowing whether or not they'll have abortion rights come July 1," Bettis said, according to Sostaric.

"In terms of next steps," Bettis added in a statement to NPR, "the attorneys defending this ban will have to file an answer to our petition, which is their opportunity to respond to our allegations."

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